Its hard to believe now, in thisage of constant comic crossovers, but there was a time when characters more-orless existed in their own worlds except, perhaps, in the pages of All Star Comics. Its probably no surprise that two of the first characters to blaze the team-up trail were the twin gods of DC: Superman and Batman. As many have pointed out over the years, the two characters share many qualities: a love of justice, a deep-seated compassion and a refusal to kill. But they have many differences too both are orphans, but just look at how differently they experienced tragedy. One grew up rich but alone, the other poor but surrounded by a loving family. One is a shadowy avenger, the other a sunny, cheerful sort. They are yin and yang. Night and day. The Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel.
With personalities as big and as commercially successful as these, it was always going to be just a matter of time before some bright spark had the idea of putting them in the same room together. But how did the characters first meet before all this Batman Vs Superman film nonsense? Did they get along? As it turns out, theres no simple answer to that. In fact, the two have met for the very first time on numerous occasions. It all started way back in 1941
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1941 - All Star Comics #7, $1,000,000 for War Orphans
Writer: Gardner Fox Artist: Everett E. Hibbard
This is slightly different from the other entries in this feature, but it was a necessary inclusion. Why? Because even though the characters clearly know each other in the story at this point (so not a first meeting), this is the very first time that we see Batman and Superman share the pages of a comic. The Green Lantern has a pang of guilt about some war orphans, so the Justice Society pledge to raise money to help them, and Bats and Supes take part. Hardly abig adventure, but just look at how glum those orphans look!
1952 - Superman #76, The Mightiest Team In The World
Writer: Edmond Hamilton Artist: Curt Swan
The first proper meeting You never know who you might meet on holiday. In Clark Kents case he ends up sharing a room on a luxury cruise ship with Bruce Wayne (though why the millionaire doesnt kick off about being roomed with a reporter is a bit of a mystery). When a fire endangers Loiss life, the two set aside their differences and get to work. A final twist comes at the end of the issue when Lois implausibly agrees to a date with Robin.
1956 - Worlds Finest Comics #84, The Super-Mystery of Metropolis
Writer: Edmond Hamilton Artist: Curt Swan
Small-time crook Thad Linnis blackmails Superman by threatening to reveal his secret identity unless he vanishes. With Supes gone, its down to his bestie, Batman, to figure out whats going on. The tale then flashes back to the Smallville era, where we see Clark dealing with a troublesome snoop who is trying to figure out his secret identity. It turns out to be a very young Bruce Wayne honing his detective skills, meaning that the two first met years ago.
1958 - Worlds Finest #94, The Origin Of The Superman-Batman Team
Writer: Edmond Hamilton Artist: Dick Sprang
Third times the charm? Six years after hepenned their original first meeting, Edmond Hamilton takes a third run at it. This time we see Batman and Robin flash back to their absolutely definitely real first mission with Superman. Concerned by Lex Luthor arming his gang with Kryptonite, they offer their services to Clark only to be rebuffed because he hasa new ally: Powerman (no, not that one). It all turns out to be a long con: Powerman is a robot that Superman has created to keep his super-buds from harm.
1960 - Adventure Comics #275, The Origin Of The Superman-Batman Team!
Writer: Jerry Coleman Artist: George Papp
Just two years later and DC were at it again and, yes, they even used the same title. Superboy meets Bruce Wayne when Bruce moves into Smallville with his still living! parents (later sensibly retconned by Roy Thomas as being his foster folks). Here Bruce creates his firstcrime-fighting personality. With thehelp of Lana Lang, he becomes... wait for it... the Flying Fox! Bruce also cottons on to Superboys secret identity pretty quickly, making this a whole tangle of weird continuity.
1972 - Superboy #182, The Forging Of Young Batman!
Writer: Leo Dorfman Artist: Bob Brown
More a retcon of Batmans origin than afirst meeting, this refers to Clark and Bruce having met before, but Bruce has no idea of Clarks secret identity thanks to a memory wipe. Superboy discovers the truth about the death of the Waynes and so visits Bruce, whos already fighting crime under the ominous name of The Executioner. It plays fast and loose with continuity Bruce is a teenager when his parents die, and Superboy is pivotal in Batmans evolution and so was mostly ignored even before Crisis wiped the slate.
1986 - The Man Of Steel #3, One Night In Gotham City
Writer: John Byrne Artist: John Byrne
In the mid-80s, Crisis On Infinite Earths rewrote 50 years of DC continuity in one fell swoop. So it was only a matter of time before a new first encounter came along. One Night In Gotham City is murkier than previous attempts. Batman is chasing down Magpie when he comes face to face with Superman, who regards him as little more than a vigilante thug. While they part on peaceable terms, theres a clear disagreement over each others methods.
1999 - Superman & Batman: Generations, The vigilantes
Writer: John Byrne Artist: John Byrne
This non-canonical Elseworlds story follows the lives of the young Bruce and Clark as they grow into their roles as costumed heroes. Its 1939 and Bruce Wayne is visiting the Metropolis Worlds Fayre when the Ultra-Humanite attacks. Once again its Loiss imperilment that brings Bruce and Clark together.
2003 - Superman/Batman: Secret Files & Origins 2003, When Clark Met Bruce: A Tale From The Days Of Smallville
Writer: Jeph Loeb Artist: Tim Sale
A cute short that finds the young and recently orphaned Bruce Wayne passing through Smallville, when his car breaks down. Nearby, Clark Kent and his pal Pete Ross are playing baseball. They dont physically meet, but Clark notices the sad young boy in the car and wonders if he should have asked him to join in their game.
2012 - Justice League #1, Justice League, Part 1
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Jim Lee
One Night In Gotham stood for a good long time, but in 2011, following the cataclysmic Flashpoint storyline, DC revamped all of its titles. Controversially, out went decades of continuity, in favour of a fresh start (again). And you know what that means... Yep, another first meeting for Bats and Supes, and another chance for the two to fall out and immediately scrap. Interestingly, the New 52 Batman wasnt alone when he met Superman for the first time he had backup from Green Lantern. Not that he was of much use against Big Blue...
2012 - Smallville Season 11 comic, Detective, Part One
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller Artist: Chris Cross
Its not in the regular DC continuity, but its still a comic... Frustrating not-quite-Buffy TV series Smallville eked out Clark Kents origin story for ten long years but somehow never got around to introducing Bruce Wayne. With the TV show out of the picture, the official Season 11 comic, however, did. Batman is hunting down his parents killer literally, this time when he encounters Clark. As first meetings go, it doesnt exactly augur well Batman decks Superman but theyre soon working side-by-side.
2013 - Batman/Superman #1, Cross World
Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Jae Lee
Which brings us bang up to date. In the New 52 Batman/Superman #1, the two meet again for the first time. Bruce is slumming it undercover, while Clark isinvestigating the deaths of a group of Wayne Enterprises employees. Theyre both young crime-fighters at this point (Supes in his controversial jeans and t-shirt ensemble) and they dont quite see eye-to-eye, but the story sets up the start of what will become a beautiful friendship well. We look forward to learning how they met for the first time again (and again?) in years to come.